What are hiccups?
Hiccups are the spasmodic, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm that is caused by irritation of the nerves that supply these muscles. The glottis suddenly closes and stops the inflow of air resulting in the sound of a hiccup. Most of us have hiccups at one time or another and this is usually a benign or harmless condition. Mild hiccups can be caused by such things as overeating, drinking fluids too quickly, alcohol ingestion, cigarette smoking, anxiety, exercising soon after meals, gastroesophageal reflux and others.
Prolonged cases of hiccups may be related to a more serious disorder and in some individuals can be incapacitating. Conditions which can cause chronic hiccups include liver disease, stomach ulcer, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, lung diseases including cancer, heart attack, psychological disturbances, certain medications, etc. Women in the later stages of pregnancy are often bothered by hiccups as the fetus and uterus increase in size and cause pressure on the diaphragm. Chronic hiccups may necessitate a thorough physical exam and a battery of tests to determine the cause.
Treatment of hiccups?
Episodic cases of hiccups are treated in a number of rather simple but effective ways. Holding your breath or rebreathing from a paper bag are common methods of treatment. These methods raise the carbon dioxide level of the blood and may stop hiccups.
People with chronic hiccups may require medications such as metoclopramide, chlorpromazine or phenytoin to treat the problem. In rare cases the nerve which supplies the diaphragm (phrenic nerve) may need to be surgically cut.